Thursday, July 29, 2010

Widespread Coral Bleaching Discovered In Sepanggar Bay, Borneo

KOTA KINABALU: Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) scientists have discovered widespread coral bleaching in Sepanggar Bay, off Sabah waters.

In disclosing this, UMS Director of Borneo Marine Research Institute Prof Dr Saleem Mustafa said such activities deserved serious attention due to its implications on marine biodiversity and coral reef fisheries in the state's waters.

"UMS scientists, including M. Ali, Aw Soo Ling and Dr Abentin Estim noticed bleaching in some areas of Sepanggar Bay.

"They are of the view that in the context of Sabah, the corals have been living close to their maximum water temperature tolerance, and additional warming of water certainly has a debilitating effect on their health and survival," he told Bernama, here Thursday.

Saleem said coral bleaching was a stress response associated with ecosystem disturbances.

"It happens when corals loose the symbiotic micro algae (zooxanthellae) due to unfavorable environmental conditions.

"Bleaching stress has affected not merely the stony corals but also some soft corals, sea anemone and other marine invertebrates which have symbiotic relationship with the zooxanthellae," he said.

He said that while the degree of bleaching in Sabah would require more studies to quantify, it seemed to have started in recent months based on the routine observations that have been on-going during regular dives in the area by UMS marine scientists.

Saleem said the immediate causes could be unusual variations in temperature, dilution and sedimentation.

According to him, the dry spell and warmer conditions experienced in Sabah earlier this year (January-March) had weakened the corals and dealt a blow to their resistance to environmental stress.

"During that period, temperature and solar radiations were reported to be higher than average. The sea surface temperature anomalies (deviation from normal profile) exceeded 1.5oC in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and the consequential atmospheric anomalies that developed, reflected a moderate El Nino Southern Oscillation," he said.

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